Reading Matters

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” 

quote: Frederick Douglass

Many people don’t know that enslaved people were prohibited by law from learning to read and write. Between 1829 and 1834 Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina and Virginia all passed anti-literacy laws.

South Carolina, where Robert Smalls was born and lived, via an amendment to its 1739 Negro Act, made literacy punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison.

But Robert Smalls was determined. And courageous.

“I would learn to read and I would learn to write, and I would learn to cipher numbers, and I would learn to be a man, a real man, a man who would come and go as he pleases, a man who has a little money in his pocket, a man who has some say in his world.” Trouble the Water

After the Civil War Smalls returned to Beaufort, and became active in local and state politics (he was one of the founders of the South Carolina Republican Party; let that sink in). His passion for educational opportunities for all children regardless of race motivated him to help draft the South Carolina Constitution of 1868 and author legislation that created the first public education system in South Carolina.

Prohibited by law from reading and writing, Robert Smalls wrote legislation to ensure literacy for all children in South Carolina!

#LiteracyMatters #RobertSmallsBook #UnsungHero

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